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Levante's Marti sinks 10-man Real Madrid

FOOTBALL By Reuters | January 31st 2021
Football - La Liga Santander - Real Madrid v Levante - Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, Madrid, Spain - January 30, 2021. Real Madrid's Karim Benzema reacts after sustaining an injury. [REUTERS/Javier Barbancho]

Levante striker Roger Marti brushed off squandering a penalty to score the winning goal as his side pulled off a shock 2-1 La Liga victory at Real Madrid on Saturday after playing the majority of the game with an extra man.

Real defender Eder Militao was sent off in the ninth minute of a highly eventful game for denying Sergio Leon a clear scoring chance but the champions took the lead in the 14th with a superb goal on the counter-attack from Marco Asensio.

Levante's talismanic forward Jose Luis Morales equalised with an unstoppable first-time finish in the 32nd minute and his side earned a penalty in the second half but Real keeper Thibaut Courtois palmed away Marti's spot-kick.

Marti had the final say, though, teeing himself up to blast a shot past Courtois in the 78th minute and clinch an unlikely Levante win that left second-placed Real seven points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, who have two games in hand.

Real were without coach Zinedine Zidane, who continued his recovery from COVID-19, while injured captain Sergio Ramos sat in the stands wearing a mask but could still be heard yelling at his team mates and the referee.

After seeing Militao dismissed following a VAR review, Madrid responded perfectly and Toni Kroos threaded a precision pass into the path of Asensio, who raced through and slotted confidently into the bottom corner.

The goal was controversial as Ferland Mendy appeared to have elbowed Levante's Gonzalo Melero in the Real area just before the hosts launched the counter.

Levante kept their cool and after Courtois made an outstanding double save to preserve his side's lead, there was little he could do to keep out Morales's effort.

The visitors then dominated the second half as Real's tired legs gave way and substitute Vinicius Jr. made a careless late tackle on Levante's Carlos Clerc, which was first given as a free kick then upgraded to a penalty after a VAR review.

Football - La Liga Santander - Real Madrid v Levante - Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, Madrid, Spain - January 30, 2021. Levante's Roger Marti celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates. [REUTERS/Javier Barbancho]

Marti spurned a glorious chance to put his side in front, but just as he had done against Osasuna earlier in the season, he made amends for his penalty miss by giving his side the lead.

"When big decisions go against you it's always going to be an uphill battle and in the second half we were so tired and we couldn't react," said Real keeper Courtois.

Match-winner Marti dismissed Real's complaints about the decisions, saying they had been fortunate not to concede a penalty for Mendy's challenge just before Asensio's goal.

"There were many key moments in the match," he said.

"Things should have gone in our favour with the sending off but we weren't able to respond at first and were 1-0 down to a great Madrid side. But we waited for the right moment to pounce."

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